one by one®: Love Smiles
Getting lost in a good book can carry you away from the day’s stress and worries to instead explore a story that can bring joy, laughter and comfort.
Jenna Brown, founder of Love Smiles, wanted to share this feeling with other families experiencing one of the hardest things imaginable: their child’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“My daughter Sydney was diagnosed with cancer in June 2020 at the age of four months, and while I knew that we were going to be coming home, not a lot of families get to have that feeling,” Brown explained. “I started asking myself, ‘How can I help them?’”
Brown challenged herself to think of a time during the day when families can come together, relax, cuddle and share in an activity that is peaceful and comforting, rather than stressing about doctor’s appointments, scans or treatment options.
“I thought of reading and escaping into a book,” Brown said. “I wanted to give that peace that I feel. I thought it would be great if I could give them that for even five minutes. I know some children’s authors myself, and everything snowballed in a really fun way.”
Fun-filled promotional drawstring backpacks bring joy and comfort to kids and parents
Over three years later, Love Smiles continues its mission to bring that sense of comfort with family-focused events, an app where children can access audio and videos of children’s authors reading stories, and promotional drawstring backpacks full of supplies.
“In every bag we include a stuffed fox, to give the child something to hold and to hug,” Brown explained.
The bags also include books, coloring books, crayons, markers, activity pads and other goodies to help bring them joy. The drawstring feature of the bags makes it easy for parents or kids to carry the items to appointments.
“When you go to treatments, you’re carrying so much stuff with you,” Brown said. “These make it easy for a mom, dad or kid to throw it on and take it with them.”
Love Smiles collects donations from local businesses and puts on a large holiday book drive to help them fill their bags each year. Volunteers can drop off items in the donation boxes or purchase items from an online wish list. This year, the organization collected 38 boxes of donations, more than any year yet.
“During our sort night, it was so cool to see everything in one room,” Brown gushed. “I thought, ‘This is a lot more than I thought we’d get.’ I didn’t know where all of it was going to live, but what an amazing problem to have.”
Brown is especially proud of how the organization has helped other families going through tough situations similar to what her own family experienced.
“I had a mom reach out,” Brown explained. “Her son was about 12 years old at the time. She said it was because of our app and these stories that the person she was most worried about, her son, just wanted to snuggle with her. She said, ‘You gave me my little kid back.’”
Brown is also excited about the day when her own daughter is old enough to understand how their family’s journey helped inspire her.
“It will be cool to be able to sit down with my daughter when she grows up and say, ‘You had cancer and it was awful, but look at what we were able to do.’ I want her to see that power, significance and beauty in our actions,” she said.
A note from Cheryl
It is so uplifting to see Love Smiles helping pediatric cancer families feel a sense of peace by sharing stories. 4imprint is pleased to play a small role in Love Smiles’ mission by providing promotional drawstring backpacks. To learn more about a 4imprint one by one® grant, visit onebyone.4imprint.com.